On handling publishing rejection

A friend of mine was musing on Twitter how little they are looking forward to a manuscript being rejected. And I have a few thoughts, or words of advice, on that front.

Speaking from my work as a short fiction editor, I can 100% genuinely assure you — sometimes your story is fantastic, it’s just not what that venue needs at that time.

I hated writing those rejections. I knew that the writers would take them as a sign that the story wasn’t any good, no matter how much I tried to say “I swear to GOD it’s not you, it’s us! We just need something lighter/darker/fantasy/sf this month I SWEAR!!!”

Of course authors take that hard. Because — and here’s the secret — the generic blow-off letter is very similar to a genuine, personal rejection. That similarity is on PURPOSE. It permits everyone to save face. It allows everyone to walk away, dignity intact. But, then, if you get a personal rejection, you understandably might wonder if this is just the blow-off.

I know. It’s hard, and I know.

But here’s what I always wanted every author to do when they received a rejection, whether standard or personalized.

Wallow. Despair. Wail, gnash teeth. Sob incoherent rage. Develop your plans to become a goat farmer in Argentina.

Immediately submit that story to another venue.

And immediately start a new work.

If every rejection you receive is converted into a story submission and a new piece of fiction, you have a net win. You are working, you are practicing your craft. You are developing new ideas as well as refining the existing works. You are researching the markets and becoming more informed about the business. You are turning each rejection into a new building block of your writing career.

That’s always, always, what I wanted authors to do when I rejected their stories. That’s the way to respond.

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3 Responses

  1. I enjoyed your revelation about what an editor would LIKE to say.

  2. […] REJECTION. Editor Sigrid Ellis’ post “On handling publishing rejection” tells things that can’t really be said in rejection letters. Some of them would be encouraging to […]

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